Veteran Star Power Drives Results
Coming off of the first three majors of 2021 and going into a historic US Open, tennis veterans are still grabbing headlines. But how are brands, athletes, even some of the world’s biggest events, navigating the social space? Here is a look at the winners on and off the court.
While men’s tennis continues to be dominated by three older stars, Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic, it is Novak Djokovic, who has been the dominant winner in social. Djokovic had the largest social presence over the first three Grand Slam events of the year, with nearly half a billion impressions produced. His 126 social posts yielded 21 million engagements, equating to more than $11.1 million of social post value. Djokovic's stellar 2021 performance has attracted increasingly more attention with each Grand Slam title; his Australian Open victory was the 3rd-most engaging post of the tournament. When tennis moved to the clay of Roland Garros, Djokovic's French Open victory post was outperformed only by a photo series shared by Federer. After a 3rd straight win, however, his celebratory Wimbledon post drew the most engagements (1.06 million) of the 2021 season.
One thing that is clear in the data is that the legacy of on court success for veteran players makes them attractive for brands and social engagement. Case in point is Serena Williams, whose 23 career Grand Slam titles keeps her social capital at a premium. On a per-post basis, Serena remains the most dominant figure in tennis, slightly outpacing Federer in average impressions, engagements and post value. The longtime star's fan base is considerably more dedicated, both drawing at least 36% more impressions and 50% more engagements than any other tennis player.
Then you have Naomi Osaka, and the attention she has generated not just by her on court performance, but by her decisions in and around The French Open and Wimbledon. Despite not playing in the tournaments, she remains the top-performing player behind the men’s Big Three and Serena Williams. Naomi’s social activity during Wimbledon produced equitable value to Rafael Nadal. In fact, her 28 posts during the French and Wimbledon, when she did not play, generated almost as much value, in excess of $1.3 million, than all the posts she did while playing in Australia to start the year. It says a great deal about the growing brand value of Osaka and the global support she has received, especially as we head toward the US Open.
Tennis, like all sports, would be nowhere without brand support. While signage is largely tournament based with virtually no year-round sponsors for all the majors, apparel is key because of its presence as the sole logo for a majority of the top players. Adidas has been the largest beneficiary of the social content produced during the year, earning $595,991 in brand value through the first three Grand Slams of 2021; the apparel manufacturer outpaced its rival Nike during both the French Open (+75%) and Wimbledon (+20%).
On the tournament side, Kia Motors' sponsorship of the Australian Open provided massive value for the brand; the $526,923 generated through social was nearly 3.5 times the value provided to the French Open's primary sponsor, BNP Paribas; this value was generated through 333 posts featuring the brand, often through multiple exposures provided via text mentions and image detections.
Following adidas, Kia and Nike, player partnerships generated major impact for apparel and product brands. Asics, Yonex, and Wilson grabbed value across the board through the first three Grand Slams, finding their way into the Top 10 in each tournament.
Tennis is a star driven sport whose biggest success stories are tied to longevity. However, within the “stars sell” narrative, it has become clear that social activity builds over the course of the calendar year. The French Open drove 20% more impressions and 24% more engagements than the Australian Open. The iconic Wimbledon tournament sees these metrics increase an additional 31% and 35%, respectively. Ultimately, content posted during Wimbledon is estimated to be 1.5 times as valuable as the content posted during the Australian Open. Something to consider and keep an eye on with the final major coming up later this summer in New York.